LAWMAKERS on Friday expressed serious concerns on the preparations of the Department of Agriculture (DA) for El Niño after learning that no fund was allocated for drought-mitigation measures in the agency’s proposed 2016 budget.
Senate President Franklin Drilon said the DA is asking P1.9 billion for El Niño, but when lawmakers checked the amount on the proposed budget for the agriculture sector, they learned that it was not in the proposed budget.
Drilon said the P1.9 billion was under the supplemental budget that the DA is seeking on top of its proposed budget for 2016.
Of the P53.38 billion budget proposal of the DA for 2016, P3.07 billion will go to personnel services, P30.32 billion to maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE), P2.04 billion to financial expenses and P19.99 billion to capital outlay.
“Really, I’m concerned that the preparation of the Agriculture department for the El Niño phenomenon is inadequate,” Drilon told reporters after attending the Senate finance committee hearing on the proposed budget of the DA.
The impact of the weather phenomenon will be felt by the country this month.
The DA has warned that 65 provinces will be affected by the dry spell.
“This is no laughing matter. I urge the DA to take a serious look at this and prepare well because the El Niño phenomenon is already with us and this will affect our farmers,” Drilon said.
He said the DA can tap unused funds in its 2015 budget and all it has to do is ask Congress to pass a resolution that will authorize the department to use its savings. Drilon explained that Congress can realign the savings of the DA to address the effects of El Niño.
Meanwhile, in a separate interview, Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agriculture Management Secretary Francis Pangilinan said that President Benino Aquino 3rd had ordered the establishment of a Cabinet level task force to help find ways to address the drought.
The task force will be headed by Secretary Arsenio Balisacan of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and its members will be composed of officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways, National Irrigation Authority; DA and his agency.